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Toledo at Komets
Face-off: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
During the summer, new Komets coach Gary Graham figured he'd start the season with three players wearing A's as alternate captains during the first few games, and then he'd see who stood out as a potential captain. Instead, the decision has likely already been made for him.
During every practice, defenseman Nick Tuzzolino has always been talking, reinforcing with teammates to make sure they know what they are supposed to do. If anyone has a question, he answers or makes sure to ask Graham himself so everyone understands. When the team is flat, he'll say during a grouping that the Komets need more chatter and then he'll lead the way. He's already setting the tone in practice.
Tuzzolino doesn't just talk to hear a voice, either. He reinforces naturally, reminding, prodding and encouraging in a normal tone. He already has everyone's respect, and not because he tried to force it or said, listen to me or look at me, I've got something to say.
"Every guy in that room that I have met has leadership qualities,'' Tuzzolino said. "That's the kind of locker room you want to be a part of, where you can count on any guy to lead you through the day or through a game.''
The man who wears the C on a team never sees it on his own chest and acts the same with or without it. That's what Tuzzolino does on and off the ice.
"Working hard every day, leaving everything on the ice, being honest with your teammates to call them out or taking it from them,'' he said when asked to define what makes a captain. "Just being dependable and accountable and not pushing blame and being a good person. That letter is something everyone else sees, but a lot of the leaders are people without letters who sit in that room.''
The Komets have plenty of those, too, guys such as Kaleigh Schrock, Brandon Marino, Chris Auger, Simon Danis-Pepin and Paul McIlveen. There are plenty of players who can step up in tough situations and do and say what needs to be said. The best captains are the players where that is who they are, not necessarily what they are. Leading is part of their makeup.
Tuzzolino was a captain previously with Utah, but getting continually moved back and forth to the American Hockey League hurt that effort, he said. He'd still like another shot at the AHL, but he's also a more mature leader now. He has more specific goals.
"I just want to be the leader and the player they want me to be,'' he said. "I want to put up the numbers and the physical play. The ultimate goal for every single year is to always win a championship, and that's something I haven't accomplished and that is my goal.''
But can a team with almost a totally new roster, new leaders and a new coach come together enough to have a strong chance at a title?
"It's definitely harder especially with the affiliations and guys on contracts going left and right, but this is a town and a team where players want to come and they want to win,'' Tuzzolino said. "You can already see the chemistry developing. It's going to get way better, and it's already at a good level. I think it's going to be very entertaining year, and we have a good chance.''